More than any other time in your week, I would suggest that what goes on in your heart and mind during the Sunday morning sermon speaks volumes about where you are in your spiritual walk.
Attending a Biblical Christian Church
If you regularly attend a church that supports a Biblical Christian worldview, you are truly blessed, but in the minority. It’s likely that you are among those who will hear a sermon preached from the Scriptures every Sunday that is intended to both teach and challenge all toward a closer relationship with God, through Christ.
As you look around, consider the level of spirituality in the room. Worshipful singing, reading from the Word, deep and sincere prayer, and praise toward the Creator of the universe has led to what the Lord has placed on the Senior Pastor’s heart. A congregation of like-minded, born-again Christians calling out to God fills the sanctuary. You are in the middle of those super-Christians who disciple and serve all the time. Those who have memorized so many verses from the Bible and seem to be so loving and connected with God. You know the ones… those who are not afraid to pray in public and always have just the right answer in Small Group.
Also, consider what is going on in the supernatural world. All that worship has attracted the angels to those few remaining hot spots of Biblical Christianity, both empowered and encouraged through human worship by faith alone in an unseen God, something they long to look into (1 Peter 1:12).
About halfway through the service, all the standing/sitting, singing, announcements, public prayer, and shaking each other’s hands is over. The kids are in Children’s Church and it’s time to sit quietly and listen to somewhere between a 20 and 40 minute prepared and prayed-over sermon by the spiritual leader of your fellowship.
More than any other time in your week, I would suggest that what goes on in your heart and mind during the Sunday morning sermon speaks volumes about where you are In your spiritual walk.
The Sermon Begins
Everyone is silent (except for perhaps a few “amens”), looking straight forward, supposedly pairing their rapt attention between the Pastor and the multimedia screen. The super-Christians and the angels are keeping Satan and his minions at bay. You are left to your secret thoughts, without interruption. A time when Christ should have one of the greatest weekly impacts on your life.
So, what is going through your mind? Are you:
- Lost in what is being taught?
- Reflecting on its application in your life?
- Convicted and crushed by what is being said?
- Depressed and distant because of what you’re hearing?
- Lost in daily conflicts and not listening at all?
Which One Are You?
Lost in what is being taught – The Pastor’s words are music to your ears. It’s not so much that you are learning something new, it’s just that you feel God’s presence speaking directly to your open and receptive heart. The Lord is bringing you into an even deeper and more rewarding relationship with Him and you feel so blessed it’s nearly impossible to hold back the emotions of it all. You scan the room briefly to see if others are feeling what you are feeling, praying silently for those whom you know are struggling, honestly and humbly basking in the glow of your Savior and Lord.
Reflecting on its application in your life – The Pastor’s words strike a chord with you as you think about the times his application from the Bible applied to your life. You thank God that He has saved you and given you power over sin, yet recognize its continuing danger. God has blessed and grown you through the challenges of life and you remain amazed at the faith you have been given as you reflect on a future in perfect harmony and joy, with Christ, called Heaven. You also lift up a silent prayer for those still struggling under the weight of life.
Convicted and crushed by what is being said – You can feel the Pastor directing his words at you, even though you remind yourself he doesn’t really know about your secret sins. You have successfully compartmentalized your daily life in such a way as to largely avoid dealing with issues you’re now being confronted with. Limited and shallow prayer along with a cavalier reading of God’s word has helped perpetuate your isolation from the truth of your actions and thoughts. Even as a Small Group leader or the pride of knowing many consider you one of the super-Christians, has not prepared you for the crushing reality of who you really are behind the wall of spirituality you project. Emotions hit you hard as well, not only because of God’s grace but also because of His righteousness.
Depressed and distant because of what you’re hearing – You come into the church a bit edgy, from life. Smiles and handshakes all around on the outside, a bit hollow on the inside. You sing the songs and bow your head for the congregational prayers, but feel little in the way of encouragement. You know the church is where you are supposed to be on Sundays and so you go, but the blessings and emotional connections you used to have are mostly a distant memory. The sermon begins and you stare at the pastor and glance at the screen, but don’t really bother to read it. It becomes a time to reflect on the sadness your life has become as you keep reminding yourself that your sins are forgiven and Heaven awaits at some future point when God is ready to take you home. As you drift in and out of the sermon, (and your eyes so heavy) you pick up just enough to be reminded of how you fall short of the standards the Lord has set for mankind in His Word. Ready to slip out as soon as possible, at least life outside of Sunday mornings is full of activities that safely engage your mind as the days tick by.
Lost in daily conflicts and not listening at all – Church is a social outlet. A place to connect with others and a safe place to store your kids for a few hours. Worship time is an opportunity to look around the room and compare the things God has blessed you with in comparison to others. Further, the sermon is a great time to think about your favorite sports team, your to-do’s for the week, a work/life challenge, or lunch. Before you know it, everyone is bowing their head in prayer and the service is over. Out the door and back to reality, pleased that you went to church another Sunday and ready to continue living out your life, on your own terms, without any deep relationship with your Father or His instruction manual.
Do you resonate with any of the five folks outlined above?
Are there mitigating circumstances that help justify your attitude on Sunday mornings? Sure there are, but are they really a valid excuse for where you land on the list above or which direction you seem to be headed? Rough morning getting the kids ready, a boring sermon, spousal and/or work distractions, wrong carpet color, poor song choices, Sally and Bobby snubbing you…. the list of excuses for a lack of engagement Sunday morning can go on and on. Do you think the true super-Christians have any problem with worship styles or carpet color? Does Sally get under their skin? Do they jump from church to church looking for perfection that will never be found, at least not on this earth?
How about the reality that it is just you and your sin nature at work in the room? A time for spiritual growth while so many are wallowing in lost opportunities.
How do we move up the scale from “lost and not listening” to “lost in what is being taught”?
The simple answer is a discipline of private prayer and Bible study OUTSIDE of Sunday morning. Do you think the super-Christians do anything more spiritual than that? It’s not serving on the finance committee. It’s not helping the disadvantaged with meals-on-wheels. It’s not giving more money to the needy. Spending alone time with God during the other six days of the week will move you up in your personal relationship with an almighty God. It truly is that simple. It is hidden so you will not get any pats on the back for doing it. But… try it for a month, one month out of the rest of your life, and see if the results are worth the extra effort.
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Jeff Hilles | BCWorldveiw.org, a 501(c)3 Nonprofit